Public Pension Reform Unlikely, but Problem isn’t Going Away

From The Sacramento Bee:

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed’s chances of enacting a comprehensive public pension reform ballot measure were scant even before Attorney General Kamala Harris gave it an unfriendly official summary.

He faced the essential dilemma of all would-be pension reformers: They have no natural allies among the political interest groups that might put up the many millions of dollars a successful ballot measure drive would require, but must contend with public employee unions – foes with bottomless wells of campaign money.

When Harris’ office issued a summary that characterized the proposal in negative terms closely paralleling the unions’ position, and Reed couldn’t persuade a judge to alter it, he backed off.

public employee union pension

Republicans should fire McConnell and Boehner

From The Daily Caller:

Senate Republican boss Mitch McConnell and his House counterpart, John  Boehner, have a clear strategy and a honed communications plan to undermine the  opposition.  Unfortunately, the two men believe that opposition is  comprised of people who think the congressional GOP should actually do things.   For that reason — and the opportunity that the feckless duo are poised to  botch — their Republican peers in Congress should fire them.

Remember the last time Congress mattered?  In the four years after the  1994 Republican landslide, a GOP-led Congress forced a Democratic president to  accept welfare reform, tax cuts, and the first balanced budget since 1969.   Can you think of a significant conservative legislative accomplishment  from the Beltway GOP since that era?  Neither can anyone else.  Nor  does anyone seriously think McConnell and Boehner are up to the task of  challenging Obama successfully in the final two years of the Obama era — even if  Republicans win control of both houses of Congress.

Time and again, McConnell and Boehner have failed to fight wisely or even  fight at all.

(Read Full Article)

Mitch McConnell

CA Lawmakers Suspend Three Disgraced Senators with Pay

From The Sacramento Bee:

The California state Senate today took the unprecedented step of suspending three of its members who have been accused of crimes including corruption, perjury and conspiracy to traffic weapons — a move that takes away their power but maintains their pay.

With a vote of 28-1, senators ousted colleagues Democrats Leland Yee of San Francisco, Ron Calderon of Montebello and Rod Wright of Baldwin Hills with a resolution that says they can’t resume office “until all criminal proceedings currently pending against them have been dismissed.”

Expelling them would be premature, Senate leader Darrell Steinberg said, because Yee and Calderon have not been convicted of their corruption charges and Wright is waiting to see if the judge in his perjury trial upholds the jury’s guilty verdict.

(Read Full Article)

democrat supermajority sacramento california

Asian-Americans Halt CA Affirmative Action Revival

As many Californians are well aware, more than half of students at UCLA and UC Berkeley are Asian or Asian-American. Yet, in California, proportions like these haven’t made for a political football — until now.

After almost 18 years of a ban on using affirmative action in college admissions after the passage of Proposition 209 in 1996, state Democrats set about working to overturn the law. The plan was for SCA 5, by state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, to pass both houses of the Legislature and secure voter approval. It would have brought back affirmative action.

That’s not the way things are turning out, thanks to California’s Asian-Americans.

Last week, saying they had received thousands of calls and emails from constituents, state Sens. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco; Ted Lieu, D-Torrance; and Carol Liu, D-La Cañada-Flintridge, asked Assembly Speaker John Perez to stop the bill.

“As lifelong advocates for the Asian-American and other communities, we would never support a policy that we believed would negatively impact our children,” they wrote in a letter to Perez.

Now, SCA 5 is dead in the water — much to the delight of Republicans, who have championed the affirmative action ban all along.


Key to the sudden momentum shift are the complex of interests and alliances surrounding Asian-Americans. The San Jose Mercury News notes that the group’s historic support for affirmative action led state Democrats to assume SCA 5 faced clear sailing. More than a few organizations, the Mercury News reports, tout affirmative action as a benefit to some Asian communities that remain statistically underrepresented in colleges and universities.

The cognitive dissonance playing out around affirmative action in California underscores what’s at stake as different activist and interest groups struggle to lay down clearer markets in the identity politics debate. “What we need now,” one Asian-American Studies scholar told The New York Times, “is not to group everyone together into some mythical model minority but to have greater nuance in understanding Asian-American groups.” Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders needed special attention, she added.

Different kinds of colleges and universities have different kinds of access to affirmative-action outcomes. Ivy League schools, for instance, pride themselves on admitting at least one student per year from every state in the union, and every corner of the globe. America’s elite universities often possess more than an interest in recruiting star applicants from far-flung locales. They often possess a unique ability to attract him or her.

For less prestigious institutions of higher education, checking the long list of identity-political boxes is a taller order. There, the process of ensuring the level of ethnic, national, and regional diversity demanded by advocates tends to give way to broader goals — adding to the Asian portion of the student body, for instance, instead of increasing the number of Pacific Islanders.

That’s a trend which increases the role played by ethnic studies professors and identitarian organizations, to whom college administrators look for approval when trying to determine whether campus diversity levels meet or exceed expectations.

Ironically, the predominantly Chinese opposition to SCA 5 reflects an attitude toward upward mobility and a college degree that compounds the anxiety facing less-well-off Asian-Americans looking for social advancement through education. The political push against SCA 5 played off of Chinese-American fears, as Steven Hsieh put it in The Nation, “that students would lose university spots to underrepresented minorities if affirmative action is reinstated.”

For many Chinese-Americans, college is not just one option among many for the rising generation, but a make-or-break experience against which family success must be judged. As San Gabriel city councilman Chin Ho Liao bluntly argued, ”Other ethnic groups don’t put their kids’ education as number one priority. You don’t realize how much Asian parents sacrifice.”

Case study

Protracted debates continue to swirl around just how much it benefits kids to be admitted into colleges where, for any reason, success eludes their grasp. As the Los Angeles Times reported in its 2013 case study of UC Berkeley freshman Kashawn Campbell, enrolling students in the quest for optimal diversity can usher in a host of unintended consequences.

The consequences include the kind of quiet contempt among fellow students that encourages campus thought policing to an even more unfortunate sense of inadequacy and fraudulence among affirmative-action beneficiaries.

Given the durability of the status quo in California, the U.S. Supreme Court offers a few useful guidelines:

  • In Regents of the University of California vs. Bakke, the court outlawed explicit racial and ethnic quotas.
  • In Grutter vs. Bollinger, the majority affirmed that taking diversity into account was still acceptable.
  • In last year’s Fisher vs. Texas ruling, the court insisted colleges and universities demonstrate that looking at race was essential to increasing diversity.

Now, a decision is soon to come down in Schuette vs. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, where justices have considered whether a Michigan ballot initiative may make it illegal for state officials — including at public universities — to “discriminate against, or grant preferential treatment to, any individual or group on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.”


Among states potentially impacted by the Schuette ruling, California is already ahead of the game in one sense: the state’s Early Academic Outreach Program, first established in 1976, has become an effective means of boosting diversity by targeting economically disadvantaged students. A survey of the program at The Atlantic summarized the program’s results:

“The percentage of Latino and Chicano resident freshmen admitted to UC has increased, from 11.9 percent in 1998, two years after the affirmative action ban, to 27.6 in 2013. The increase of African American resident freshmen admits was more modest, from 3 percent, in 1998, to 4.2 percent in 2013.”

EAOP hasn’t restored minority admissions to the levels attained before California’s affirmative action ban. But it has increased them in a manner more consistent with state and federal law.

(James Poulos is a contributor to CalWatchdog. Originally published on CalWatchdog.)

Era of the Migrant Moguls

Southern California, once the center of one of the world’s most vibrant business communities, has seen its economic leadership become largely rudderless. Business interests have been losing power for decades, as organized labor, ethnic politicians, green activists, intrusive planners, crony developers and local NIMBYs have slowly supplanted the leaders of major corporations and industries, whose postures have become, at best, defensive.

Increasingly, a search for inspiration about the region’s future must focus, first and foremost, on immigrants. As major companies disappear, merge or shift more of their operations elsewhere, the foreign-born represent a significant asset for our grass-roots economy. With many of the region’s legacy industries – from oil and gas to aerospace and entertainment – stagnating or declining, the area desperately needs new blood to avoid ending up like the older cities of the slow-growth Northeast or Midwest, albeit with much better weather.

Amid a graying and, increasingly, marginal generation of regional business leaders, there have emerged new foreign-born dynamic figures. Some great examples: South African native and Tesla founder Elon Musk, who lives in Los Angeles and runs SpaceX, headquartered in Hawthorne and with more than 2,000 employees, and John Tu and David Sun, owners of Fountain Valley’s Kingston Technology, a leading independent memory-chip manufacturer founded in 1987 and now employing 4,000 people worldwide.

Our new moguls increasingly are minted abroad. Pharmaceutical entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong, the son of Chinese immigrants from South Africa, is now widely considered the richest man in Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Business Journal. But he’s not alone; five of the 13 richest people in the City of Angels are immigrants; in 1997 there was one, Australia’s Rupert Murdoch.

Why are these immigrants so bright when much of our business leadership is dark grey? Part of it has to do with the nature of people who risk everything to migrate to another country. Overall they account for one out of every five U.S. business owners. They are three times as likely to start a new business than non-immigrants; in 2010 they accounted for almost one-in-three new firms, twice their share in 1995. Roughly 40 percent of the engineering-based firms started in Silicon Valley, notes the Kauffman Foundation, had at least one immigrant founder.

Whether in high-tech, pharmaceuticals or running the local coffee shop, immigrants tend both to innovate and take risks. That’s because, as Kingston’s John Tu explained to me, they don’t have a choice. “The key thing about being an immigrant makes you flexible,” he said. “IBM, Apple and Compaq were inflexible. They told the memory customers to take it or leave it. We thought about the customer and the relationship with the employees. I guess we didn’t know any better.”

Rise of the ethnoburb

Most of the growth being generated by Southern California’s immigrants is taking place in suburban communities – what geographer Wei Li describes as ethnoburbs. Despite the hopes that more Southlanders can be lured into high-density, high-rise rental housing, immigrants, particularly Asians, here and elsewhere, continue to move further from the city core to areas where they can live with a degree of privacy and quiet virtually impossible in their homelands.

This can be seen in the migration numbers. As foreign-born numbers have dropped in expensive and crowded Los Angeles and Orange County, the big growth has taken place in other areas, notably in fast-growing Texas cities such as Dallas and Houston, as well as numerous low-cost, pro-business states in the Southeast. The one Southland area that has continued to see a boom in foreign-born residents – the Inland Empire – has the lowest population density and house prices in the region.

According to demographer Wendell Cox, the Inland Empire’s immigrant population has swelled by more than 50 percent, or more than 300,000 people, since 2000, roughly three times the increase in actual numbers seen in Los Angeles and Orange counties. Much of this growth is taking place not in the older cities such as Riverside and San Bernardino, as might be expected, but in generally more affluent, newer suburbs such as Rancho Cucamonga, whose foreign-born population soared a remarkable 61.6 percent over the past decade. Even Moreno Valley, on the edge of the urbanization, has more foreign-born residents than does San Bernardino.

Even within the coastal counties, much of the growth in the Asian population, now the largest source of immigrants to the U.S., has been outside the densest, more-urbanized parts of the region. As the immigrant share of the population has declined in traditional immigrant strongholds such as the city of Los Angeles (down 5 percent) and Santa Ana (more than 11 percent), Cox notes, the immigrant population is shifting to more upscale suburbs. In Glendale, a major destination for both Armenian and Asian immigrants, more than 56 percent of the population is foreign-born, up 4 percent since 2000.

Other popular immigrant destinations include once-heavily white suburban communities, such as Irvine, which is now more than 38 percent foreign-born, up almost 19 percent since 2000. Fullerton, like Irvine, favored largely by Asian migrants, saw its foreign-born population increase by 21 percent since 2000, now accounting for more than one-third of the city’s total.

Other places that seem to be attracting immigrants include Santa Clarita, Palmdale and Lancaster, all communities further out on the periphery of the region.

Harnessing entrepreneurial energy

If Southern California’s future lies largely in the hands of newcomers and their offspring, how can we best respond to their needs? One way is by maintaining a large supply of single-family houses or townhomes. Today’s immigrants, particularly Asians, favor settling in ethnoburbs more than the dense Chinatowns, Little Indias and barrios that may strike many other Americans as somehow more colorful. Now, the best place to encounter immigrant food and culture is frequently at the strip malls of Monterey Park, the Hispanicized shopping complexes like Plaza Mexico, Irvine’s Diamond Jamboree Center or the amazing 626 Night Market at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia.

Of course, immigrants are less interested in providing neighbohoods with local color than in moving to places with good schools, safe streets and parks – as most middle-class families prefer. This preference runs afoul of the kind of extreme land-use regimen being imposed on the region, including the Inland Empire, planning that seeks to promote the construction of high-density housing that, to be honest, many immigrants, particularly Asians, could enjoy at home, with far more amenities.

Planners and some developers seem keen on this shift, thinking it will appeal to young childless couples and empty-nesters. What they ignore is that, without plentiful, and at least somewhat affordable, single-family houses, immigrants will continue to shift to other parts of the country, notably, the Southeast and Texas, where they can afford them.

Perhaps even more important may be the economy. Immigrants are the ultimate canaries in the coalmine – they tend to gravitate toward opportunity. When Southern California’s economy was burgeoning in the 1970s and 1980s, immigrants also flocked here, buying homes and starting businesses. Few immigrant entrepreneurs reached the level of a John Tu or an Elon Musk, but many have launched small manufacturing firms that supported larger firms, engaged in international trade and started small service businesses.

Unfortunately, the business climate in Southern California increasingly makes such enterprise ever more difficult, and may lead these entrepreneurs to relocate or expand where their efforts may be more appreciated. Not helping these businesses is an L.A. political climate dominated by a crony capitalist regime – not at all friendly to plucky startups of any kind – or by a Republican Party that still seems unable to make peace with the demographic realities of our region.

The good news is, however, that these immigrants, and their kids, are still here. They have many reasons to stay, including the presence of ethnic media, churches, schools and shops not likely to be remotely as well-developed in places like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Atlanta or Nashville. But this does not mean they can be taken for granted. We need to recognize that they are our greatest asset, and, if we can appeal to their aspirations, they could help fashion a resurgence in this region.

(Joel Kotkin is executive editor of and Distinguished Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. Published on Fox and Hounds.)

Disapproval of Obama Rises Among CA Voters

From The Sacramento Bee:

Even in deep blue California, disapproval of Democratic President Barack Obama is rising and voters are souring on the country’s prospects, according to a new Field Poll.

Although 51 percent of California voters approve of the president’s performance, 43 percent disapprove, an increase of 8 percentage points since July.

Michelle Obama

White House Tries to Save Obamacare

From Politico:

President Barack Obama, confident that is finally working,  attempted Tuesday to shift the nation’s attention toward Affordable Care Act  benefits that he says were overshadowed by website problems at a critical time  for the law.

The president’s brief speech marked the start of the White House’s latest  messaging push, a three-week campaign that aims to boost anemic enrollment  figures and put Republicans on the defensive after Obamacare’s embarrassing  rollout.

(Read Full Article)

obamacare gitmo

CA Lawmakers “Grill” Officials over Unemployment Check Delays

From The Sacramento Bee:

As officials in charge of a computer problem that delayed jobless benefits for nearly 150,000 Californians appeared for the first time before an Assembly committee Wednesday, front-line employees testified the department is still buckling under a backlog of calls.

Irene Livingston, an employment program representative for the Employment Development Department in San Jose, said it remains “nearly impossible” for out-of-work Californians to reach an employee at EDD. She told members of the Assembly Insurance Committee the department is overwhelmed with telephone calls and an email system that remains backlogged.

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

Photo courtesy Franco Folini, flickr

New Crimes Could Undermine California’s ‘Realignment’

From The Sacramento Bee:

So far, about 40,000 felons have been affected by California’s “realignment” program, which is aimed at reducing overcrowding in prisons in accordance with federal court orders without, it’s said, releasing dangerous criminals to prey upon the public.

Newly convicted offenders deemed to be nonthreatening have been diverted into local jails and probation, while parolees meeting similar criteria are being shifted into local supervision, financed by a stream of tax revenues.


Assembly Republicans to Vote on Leader After Session Ends

From The Sacramento Bee:

For the second time this year, Assemblywoman Connie Conway faces the possibility of surrendering her leadership of the Assembly Republican Caucus.

Assembly Republicans will hold a leadership vote after the current legislative session ends on Sept. 13. Conway, a Tulare Republican who weathered a quickly quashed challenge in February, will seek re-election, spokeswoman Sabrina Lockhart said.

“Historically, this has happened at the end of session and after elections, so she wanted to gauge her caucus after we work through the last final weeks of session,” Lockhart said.